The MTO Group has become synonymous to mountain bikers with fantastic trails; from Jonkershoek to Tsitsikamma many of the Western Cape’s most beloved mountain bike routes weave their way through MTO plantations. For the Kayamandi based charity, songo.info, though the MTO Group provides far more than a mountain biker’s playground – by supporting the charity’s education initiatives the MTO Group is providing possibilities for young people beyond the bike.
Founded in 2008 by Songo Fipaza and Swiss mountain biking legend Christoph Sauser, the aim of songo.info was initially to provide a safe space for the children of Kayamandi to play and introduce them to BMX riding and mountain biking. It soon became apparent though that there was so much more which needed to be done to improve the lives of the children in the programme. In 2014 the songo.info clubhouse was opened and afterschool homework classes were implemented. Under the guidance of songo.info trustee and retired educator Eunice Myataza the children are assisted with their homework for an hour, Mondays to Thursdays, before they are allowed to head outside and ride the BMXs or mountain bikes.
Homework sessions alone though are not enough to address the shortfalls in the education of the youth of Kaymandi and this is where the generous support of the MTO Group has been making a significant impact since March 2016.
With MTO’s support songo.info was able to bring Liz Ward on board to head up the education programme and implement, with the support of the rest of the team, a number of exciting initiatives. One of the most promising of these being the Reading Eggs programme, this interactive, online, programme teaches children to read in an engaging and entertaining manner. It’s also essential to the children in the programme as they are not native English speakers. With much of their teaching and learning conducted in English, increasing their English comprehension skills is an important step in improving their academic results.
With the assistance of the MTO Group songo.info has been able to implement other initiatives too, including fortnightly and holiday extra mathematics sessions; a tertiary education programme; a life-skills development programme; holiday activity plans; and educational outings which help foster a love of learning. Plans are also being put in place to create a tertiary scholars intern programme which will see students from Stellenbosch University volunteer as tutors to children in the songo.info programme.
As MTO Group CEO Lawrence Polkinghorne explains: “songo.info’s vision is aligned with MTO’s social performance programs. We believe that it is critical to identify, nurture and develop talent from a young age. The songo.info programme offers kids the opportunity to learn discipline, commitment, pride and participation which we believe will ultimately culminate in well-rounded individuals who will lead by example in their communities. It is a privilege to be associated with songo.info and we look forward to celebrating the positive impact the programme has on all associated with it”.
It is songo.info’s ultimate aim to provide a holistic support structure for the children within the programme, and in so doing help them reach their full potential as individuals. It is a tragic reality of life in South Africa that so many children are born into a life of poverty; it is only through programmes which provide children with support structures beyond simply sport or education that the individual children can be empowered to break the cycle of poverty. With the help of the MTO Group songo.info hopes to do just that for the youth of Kayamandi.